Vatican official claims Inquisition was a mistake but legal

The Vatican is preparing for fresh controversy over the Inquisition after Joseph Di Noia, Under-secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, offered a partial defence of the "Holy Terror" in a UK TV documentary.

The London Telegraph reports that Fr Di Noia admits in a four-part television series that started this week that the use of torture and public burnings were "mistakes".

But the US-born Dominican argues that these methods of suppressing heresy were explicable in the context of the times, when people believed passionately in heaven and hell.

The Telegraph says Fr Di Noia's gloss on history is significant because the Congregation is the successor body to the Inquisition and, until last year, it was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

The late Pope John Paul II apologised for the Inquisition in 2002.

He said the Church should show penitence for "accepting methods of intolerance or even violence in the service of truth".

The four-part documentary on the UK History channel draws on research gleaned from Vatican files only opened to scrutiny in 1998.

It highlights periods of the persecution that began in the 13th century and ended only in the late 1800s.

The Inquisition was established by Pope Gregory in 1233 as a special court to help curb the influence of beliefs deemed to deviate from official Church doctrine.

Interviewed in the documentary, The Secret Files of the Inquisition, Fr Di Noia says: "It was a mistake to torture people.

"However, torture was regarded as a perfectly justified, legitimate way of producing evidence and it was therefore legally justified."

Inquisition was a mistake but legally justified, claims Vatican official (London Telegraph 30/1/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The Secret Files of The Inquisition
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Vatican to help research on inquisition (CathNews 11/11/04)
Prison during Inquisition to become museum (CathNews 11/8/04)
Vatican deals with Inquisition and New Age in same breath (CathNews 16/6/04)

2 Feb 2006